I hate sharing my kids. There, I said it. It's selfish and I never admit it to them, but I hate it.
On the day they switch to their dad's house for the week, my heart feels hollow. I hate that day. Which can make it very tempting to hold on too tightly to them when they are home again.
My oldest daughter, Kate, has a friend who is the sweetest thing in the world. She truly is one of the nicest people I've ever met. Unfortunately Kate and her friend don't get to spend as much time together as they'd like. Because when her friend is at her dad's house, she isn't allowed to spend much time with friends or at any other social function. Her dad is one of those parents who thinks that because she is only there every other week, she owes him her time. So sad.
Do our kids owe us their time? Really? If anything, we owe them the opportunity to live as normal a life as possible. In most circumstances, children did not ask for their parents to divorce but the children are the ones being asked to bear the brunt of the inconvenience of a two household family. Some of that is, unfortunately, just part of the deal. But as parents we should alleviate this in any way we can.
Manly Man Dad Friend, whom I have mentioned before, is a single dad. I'm sure there must be others out there who've got it figured out like he does. But so far, he's the only divorced dad I know of who does it right. When his kids have social events or slumber parties or lock-ins or sports camps or any other activity planned for his scheduled weekend, guess what he does? He shares in his children's excitement, makes sure they have what the need, taxis them to the location and picks them up the next day. Imagine that! He actually lets his kids enjoy their childhoods without making them feel obligated to give him their time and attention.
So, let me ask you, which kid has a closer relationship with her dad--the one who must log the prescribed hours or the one who gets to have a normal social life?
The parents who are so focused on forcing their children to log hours just don't get it. The parents who won't allow the child to go to dad's because it mom's week, just don't get it. The parents who guilt trip kids into staying home because the parent feels insecure just don't get it. What don't they get? Respect, for one thing. They also don't get that they are teaching their kids that love is conditional and that obligation is more important than acceptance.
So when I'm tempted to hold on too tightly, I give a great big hug--one that will last for the entire time they are apart from me. And I remind them over and over and over again: "I don't own you. I love you."